My “introduction” to Holy Cross came in the form of a telephone call from Fr. Tom McNally, C.S.C., in 1972 offering me a position as an RA in Grace Hall at the University of Notre Dame. I was 30 years old at the time, and about to enter Notre Dame Law School. I had never lived in a college dormitory. I had never set foot on the Notre Dame campus. And yet I had signed up to begin anew as a student, living with college undergraduates 18 to 20 years old. I figured I could put up with almost anything for three years.
Overall, I ended up spending 25 years living in undergraduate residence halls at Notre Dame – 25 years for which I will always be grateful.
It was in Grace Hall working with Holy Cross religious that I first started considering the possibility of life as a Holy Cross priest. After graduating from law school and practicing law for a couple of years, I entered Moreau Seminary at the age of 35. But, the roots of my vocation can be traced back to my parents and family, the nuns who taught me in grade school and high school, and the priests at my parish growing up for whom I had great admiration and respect.
I had been involved as a college professor, college administrator, business professional and a lawyer before I entered the seminary. I was happy and successful in all that I had done, but there was always the unsettled feeling that I was supposed to be doing something else.
The priesthood had come up occasionally in my life, but I had never felt it really fit. Marriage, a family and a professional life in business were what I had “planned”. But, the professional life I was pursuing never seemed totally right, and as I practiced law, I more and more felt I had to look into the religious life in Holy Cross. The Holy Cross men I had gotten to know when I was a law student, and the life they lived as religious priests – as men committed to doing God’s work together, in a community, sharing a common purse and living a life of common prayer and ministry – became more and more attractive to me.
So, I entered Moreau Seminary – really surprised that I was “starting over”. But, almost from the day I arrived at Moreau I felt that I belonged there, that Holy Cross was my home, and I have never regretted the day I made that move. It was there that I learned what it meant to live in a religious community. It was there that I came to truly know Holy Cross and what it meant to be a Holy Cross priest.
My life in Holy Cross has been incredibly blessed, and I have had remarkable experiences that would otherwise never have been available to me. My ministry in Holy Cross has always been in higher education, primarily in administration. I was fortunate early on to work as Executive Assistant to Frs. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., and Edmund Joyce, C.S.C. These men served as wonderful role models of the priest-administrator. It was always very clear that they were first and foremost Holy Cross priests, and what they did as university officers flowed from that starting point.
My 13 years as Executive Vice President of Notre Dame were incredibly demanding and exciting. It was a privilege to work with Fr. Monk Malloy, C.S.C., and a group of generous lay collaborators. While most of what I did was not unlike that done by an officer at any large university, there was always the added dimension of my Holy Cross priesthood that was the foundation for all I did. I did not think in terms of having a job or a profession – rather, I was involved in a ministry, in sacred work.
All 25 years I was an administrator and officer at Notre Dame I lived with students in a residence hall. Celebrating Mass with students in the hall chapel, late night conversations with individuals and groups of students – celebrating their accomplishments, consoling them in their defeats, working through tragedies, and sharing moments of joy – they were all special times spent with young adults at a pivotal time in their lives. It is truly a privilege to be given that opportunity and to continue often to be a part of their family life long after they have graduated.
My life took another unexpected turn when I was invited to serve as Senior Vice President at the University of Portland. A year later I was appointed President of the University. Again, over my 10 years here, I have found the opportunity to minister at a Holy Cross university to be a special privilege and blessing. The men in the Holy Cross community, together with our lay collaborators here, have a real sense of mission and ministry that make this place on The Bluff very special. It is an exciting time to be at the University of Portland as one sees its aspiration to be a premier Catholic teaching university coming to fruition.
My life as a Holy Cross religious has indeed been blessed. The men of Holy Cross are my family – but not to the exclusion of my genetic family. When I joined Holy Cross I did not feel I left my genetic family, rather my genetic family became part of Holy Cross in a special way. My sister and I were blessed to have parents who were wonderful role models for us. They were people of great faith and great forgiveness. They helped lead me to Holy Cross though neither they nor I knew it at the time.
And my brothers in Holy Cross continue to inspire me with their lives of faith and dedicated service to God and His people. They remind me every day that what we do is sacred work.
Fr. Bill Beauchamp is a priest with the Congregation of the Holy Cross. His vocation story was originally published at Holy Cross Vocations and is republished with permission.